Nightly News   |  October 23, 2011

Rescuers search for survivors after earthquake in Turkey

Locals join overwhelmed emergency crews in Turkey to help find survivors following a 7.2 magnitude earthquake on Sunday. NBC's Annabel Roberts reports.

Share This:

This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

LESTER HOLT, anchor: In eastern Turkey tonight some people are digging with their hands in a desperate search for the living after a deadly earthquake jolted the region this afternoon. The quake with a magnitude of 7.2 was centered close to the Iranian border near the city of Van , but caused damage across a wide area. Scores of buildings have collapsed, trapping an unknown number of people. Said the mayor of one hard hit town, 'People are in agony. We can hear their screams.' At least 138 people are dead but that number is expected to quickly and dramatically climb. NBC 's Annabel Roberts is following developments for us from London tonight with this report.

ANNABEL ROBERTS reporting: It may be night, but the rescue work continues. Local people join the overwhelmed emergency crews to dig through the rubble in the hope of finding survivors. And they do, a young woman grimacing with pain. She's raised on a stretcher and carried to an ambulance. One life saved is a triumph, but many more lie buried and the challenge is to reach them fast. The nights are cold, the temperature falls below freezing, extremely harsh conditions for anyone trapped overnight. They dig with bare hands. Impossible to give up hope, almost impossible to get through the debris. The quake struck at lunch time , people ran on to the streets in panic. A series of aftershocks followed. At least 21, the strongest with a magnitude of 6.

Dr. LUCY JONES (USGS Chief Scientist): Turkey , like California and Japan , is sitting at a what's called a plate boundary. This is an area with multiple faults in a very complex pattern. We can already see that some of the aftershocks are probably on different faults than on the main shock.

ROBERTS: In spite of these known risks, construction work can be shoddy. Officials fear as many as a thousand could be dead. The Red Cross say many are trapped.

Mr. JOE LOWRY (International Federation of Red Cross): We've seen a lot of buildings have just collapsed like pancakes, which would have been extremely dangerous to people who'd been inside them at the time.

ROBERTS: 'They rescued two people,' this man says. 'They were injured but four more people are trapped under the rubble.' Not knowing about loved ones is devastating. 'We went to all the hospitals, but haven't been able to find our friend,' he says. 'I pray to God our friend has survived.' There are calls for tents and blankets. More rescue teams are on their way, but roads are blocked. It will take time, and time truly matters for those trapped tonight. Annabel Roberts, NBC News, London.